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Screen of Female Kabuki Performers,

94 cm (vertical) x 330 cm (horizontal) (owned by the Waseda University Theatre Museum, Tokyo


Circa 1650. This work depicts two early 17th century Kyoto Theatres. Yasaka Shrine appears in the right area of the image, while two theatres can be seen at the left of the painting. During this time, Kabuki plays were known as “Female Kabuki” because they were performed by female prostitutes and entertainers. Unlike the performances of later eras, these were more similar to the “revues” and “variety shows” of today. In addition, the musicians did not use the shamisen instruments used today.

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Screen of Miyako Mandayu-za Theatre,

90.2 cm (vertical) x 264.3 cm (horizontal) (owned by the Waseda University Theatre Museum, Tokyo)


Circa 1700. This work depicts the Miyako Mandayu-za Theatre along Shijō Avenue in Kyoto. From around 1700 onward, Kabuki evolved into what is known as “Male Kabuki”; as this name implies, these performances featured only male actors. Entertainers attracting patrons to the entrance of theatres and shamisen musicians also started to appear around this time.

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Embellished Billboard of Yaoya Oshichi,

162.9 cm (vertical) x 281.5 cm (horizontal) (owned by Waseda University Theatre Museum)


The image depicts a picture signboard used by the Kawarasaki-za Theatre in 1783, featuring  an embellished portrait of Yaoya Oshichi. This is the oldest extant example of a signboard depicting a Kabuki figure. Signboards were advertising media akin to modern cinema posters. However, they did not feature single scenes from the Kabuki repertoire, but rather were montages of several scenes, and can thus be thought of more like modern movie trailers. For the people of Edo, they evoked feelings of a gorgeous world inhabited by popular and charismatic actors. Crests and characters were used to indicate the identities and social positions of each character.

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Screen of the Iinterior of the Ichimura-za Theatre,

93.2 cm (vertical) x 258.9 cm (horizontal) (part of the Waseda University Theatre Museum collection)


Circa 1700. This work depicts the interior of Ichimura-za Theatre, which was located in Edo (present Tokyo). The Ichimura-za Theatre was one of three Kabuki venues that were permitted to operate by government of the time. "Maruni-tachibana" is written on the crest of the Ichimura theatre’s entrance curtain. This theatre was fully indoors, and featured a two-story reviewing platform. A “hanamichi” or passageway that extended from the audience to the stage--similar in form to hanamichi that are used today--was also installed in the theatre. In this image, a song known as “Hanabusa Bunshin” is being performed. The Edo Kabuki New Year’s Classic play called “The Soga Brothers”—a well-known and popular story of revenge from the Kamakura era (1185-1333)—is being performed.

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Birds and Autumn Leaves

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